It’s easy to forget just how long You Me At Six have been around, given that the band has an average age of only 30, which isn’t very old at all despite what social media might have you believe.
The Surrey quintet have been weathering the storms of the music industry since 2004 and in the years since their inception they’ve gone from teenagers putting their own spin on pop-punk, long before a UK scene would truly materialise around the genre, to grown men known for crafting arena-ready, radio friendly rock music.
Of the crop of british rock bands that they emerged with, You Me At Six are one of the few still left standing in 2021. This feat was made possible, in part by their willingness to constantly reinvent themselves by looking outside of the confines of whatever box they’ve been placed in at any given time in their career. Straying from pop rock and diving headfirst into heavier territory lead to 2011’s ‘Sinners Never Sleep’, an album that still stands as one of the best in their canon and on their seventh album ‘SUCKAPUNCH’, the five piece switch things up by borrowing from dance, R&B and hip-hop to lay the foundation for their latest evolution.
Opening track ‘Nice To Me’ kicks things off in an explosive fashion. Propelled by a jittery guitar riff and drums that occupy the nebulous space between sounding programmed and sounding acoustic, the intro track firmly establishes the album’s tone. With it’s shout-along chorus, the tune isn’t too far removed from what fans will have come to expect from the band but the glitchy percussion and screeching synth sounds buried in the mix give the song a feeling reminiscent of industrial rock that immediately sets this album apart from its predecessors.
‘MAKEMEFEELALIVE’ is driven by drummer Dan Flint’s infectious breakbeats and hears frontman Josh Franceschi bemoan a feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction through an aggressively delivered chorus of “Make me feel alive, I’m so fucking dead inside”. There’s darkness like this dispersed throughout ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ but it’s filtered through high energy anthems that are catchy enough to mask the underlying misery if you aren’t paying close attention to the words being sung. ‘Beautiful Way’ is similarly bleak but it’s lead guitar line lends the track a glimmer of hope and as Josh bellows “we’re fucked up in a beautiful way” it feels more like he’s boldly embracing that fact as opposed to lamenting it.
One of the standout moments on the album comes in the form of ‘WYDRN’ (What You Doing Right Now). It sounds unlike anything the band has conjured up in the past and while it might alienate some longtime listeners, it’s a slice of alt pop that sits comfortably as one of the best songs on the tracklist. The throbbing bass, skittering hi-hats and airy synths wouldn’t sound out of place on a Billie Eillish record and Josh’s range is on full display, trading abrasive yells for a syrupy delivery dripping with R&B influence.
You Me At Six have spoken openly about the idea that ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ could’ve been their last album, Josh in particular admitting that he’d started to question who he was outside of the role he’s played in a band that came together when he was 15 years old. With this seventh album the band have managed to craft a hard hitting and forward thinking record that fuses more traditionalist elements of rock with sounds from genres currently dominating cultural conversation.
The experimentation that can be heard across ‘SUCKAPUNCH’ is what rekindled the band’s collective passion for music and their desire to push boundaries could be what allows them to continue to brave the storm of the music industry for another fifteen years, should they still want to.
Words: Sul Fell
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